Here is the general advice I give a fresh grads who are interviewing for SDR roles and trying to break into tech.
1. Understand the SDR Job
You need to understand the role that you are applying for. Some of the fresh grads I work with already know what SDRs do, maybe through a prior internship, friends currently in the role, or through research. But many don't, and this is a quick way to get cut from the interview process.
So if you aren't really sure what the SDR role is, you should start by Googling: "What is a Sales Development Rep?"
Here is a great definition of sales development from The Sales Development Playbook by Trish Bertuzzi: "A specialized sales role focused on the front-end of the sales process - qualifying inbound leads and/or conducting outbound prospecting - to generate sales pipeline."
SDRs are setting sales appointments, either introductory meetings or qualified opportunities, for the Account Executives. AEs carry a revenue quota, run demos, and negotiate and close deals.
You'll want to dive into the day-to-day of the SDR job, and what the common challenges are that you might face. Having an understanding of what you will be doing, what challenges you will face, and why you will be able to overcome those challenges are crucial to succeeding in the SDR interview process. Here is a solid rundown on a day in the life of an SDR.
You can accomplish this by talking to friends who are already SDRs. I also recommend following some of the Top Voices in Sales on LinkedIn and see what they are talking about. One of these Sales Leaders, Morgan J. Ingram hosts a podcast called The SDR Chronicles that could be a good deep dive. Either way, learning the SaaS sales lingo could give a huge leg up in the interview process, and show that you are highly serious about sales. Rather than thinking this might show your sales expertise - which you probably don't have and shouldn't pretend that you have - it'll show your willingness to learn.
In addition to learning what it takes to succeed in the SDR role, you'll also want to consider mid-term and long-term goals. Do you want to be in SaaS sales for the long haul? It's okay if you don't, but many hiring managers really like it when you do. Think about your goals, whether that's earning a promotion to AE or into Sales Management, or something else.
Here are some expectations for timeline and compensation around promotions -
2. Treat the Interview Process like a Sales Process
Your potential sales ability is being judged during the interview process, so you must treat it like a sale.
3. Interview Questions You Should Prepare For
These are the very basics -
Here is a really good thought piece about the "why sales" question that I got from a Sales Leader on Linkedin. I feel bad that I didn't write down who wrote this, so I can't attribute this, but it's money!
The CLASSIC Interview Question: Why do you want to be in sales?
"I’m a people person. I’m a people pleaser. I like to connect with people. I like to make people happy."
If these are your top reasons for getting into sales, you may end up underwhelmed with the choice.
More often, sales requires making people feel uncomfortable. Making them realize they have problems they didn’t know they have. Making them realize they need to spend money they weren’t prepared to spend. They may very well not be happy throughout these conversations, but your job isn’t to make them happy, it’s to get them to make the right decision to solve their problem.
So, why do you want to get into sales?
"I like to challenge people. I like to persuade people. I enjoy a good debate. I thrive in a competitive environment. I work well under pressure. I like to win."
If these are your reasons, you’re probably cut out for the job.
For the "Why you?", you should use the company's Career page, Job page, and Values to determine the profile of candidate they are looking for, and come up with specific examples for how you are a good fit.
But obviously the actual interviews will involve far more questions than just these. So let's put ourselves in the shoes of the interviewers for a second. Hiring great people is just as much a challenge for a company as it is for a job seeker to land a job. This article is a great read that explains how hiring managers might approach interview questions, and can inform us what to prepare for - How to Hire a Top Performer Every Time With These Interview Questions.
The article explains the seven characteristics that, taken together, best translate into someone killing it at their job - grit, rigor, impact, teamwork, ownership, curiosity, and polish. Then it explains the potential interview questions to ask to uncover these High Performer Traits in a candidate, as well as what to listen for. As a candidate, you can reverse engineer your answers.
For grit, ask:
For rigor, ask:
For impact, ask:
For teamwork, ask:
For ownership, ask:
For curiosity, ask:
I doubt that these will be the exact interview questions you will be asked. But I do think that this provides some insight into the interviewer's mind, and a good template to prepare some good answers with concrete examples of traits that you have that are highly sought after by companies.
4. Questions You Should Ask in a Sales Job Interview
At the end of every interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. This isn’t just a formality, and it’s certainly not a chance for you to just coast. Your interviewers will be evaluating your potential—especially your customer engagement skills—during this segment of the sales job interview. To do well, prepare thoughtful questions.
Here are some good general questions to ask -
All this interview preparation obviously won't get you a top SDR job on its own. You need a good resume, relevant experience, top-notch communication skills, and a "personality fit." But those things are what they are, and out of your control by the time you are interviewing. The preparation outlined in this post is what you can control, and a little bit of extra effort and preparation can definitely pay off.
And my closing thought is this - prepare but don't overthink it. I'm worried that some candidates might read this post and feel like they have a mountain of preparation to do. Or that too much preparation will prevent you from being able to think on the fly, or just be yourself in the interview process. Don't let that happen.
Once the interview starts, you must trust in the preparation, and be fully engaged and confident, and 100% genuine. When I reflect on my own career, being 100% genuine and true to myself has prevented me from getting hired at companies where I didn't belong, and steered towards opportunities that were the perfect fit.
If you get cut from the interview process, then it just wasn't meant to be. Reflect, learn from it, and move on to the next. If you get super discouraged when it doesn't go your way, then you probably shouldn't be in sales anyways.
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